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Top 10 things to do in Amsterdam for free

10 February 2016 ( 27 April 2016 )

If you know where to look, you'll find an endless amount of things to do in Amsterdam that won't cost you a penny. We pick our top ten.

River view in Amsterdam

1. Civic Guards' Gallery

It is not often great works of art are displayed on the street for free. Which is why the Civic Guards' Gallery is so special.

Just inside the arched gateway to the Amsterdam Historical Museum lies a hidden passageway lined with 15 enormous 17th-century paintings, protected by a glass roof.

This remarkable public museum street is one of the only ones of its kind in the world. Take your time as you admire these massive group portraits of the important citizens of Amsterdam, who belonged to the Civic Guard during the Dutch Golden Age.

2. Begijnhof courtyard

Explore Amsterdam's oldest and most charming courtyard. Originally built in the 14th-century as a Béguinage – a place for Catholic women – the Begijnhof is tucked away in the city's innermost ring, and is reached via a narrow alley.

Once you find it, you won't want to leave: an enchanting sanctuary of tall elegant town-houses around a tranquil green and bordered by flower gardens. 

Look out for Amsterdam's oldest house ("Houten Huys", 34 Begijnhof) – one of the city's only two remaining wooden houses, dating from 1475.

3. Lunchtime concerts at Concertgebouw and Muziektheater

Nothing beats a live orchestral concert – especially if it's free.

Every Wednesday, from September to June (the cultural arts season) at 12:30pm, the Concertgebouw treats visitors to a 30-minute concert, which is often a public rehearsal from world-renowned orchestras or ensembles that will perform officially later that evening.

Meanwhile, on Tuesdays at the same time, from October to June, the Muziektheater hosts free concerts performed by one of its permanent ensembles,  the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, the Choir of the Netherlands Opera and the Netherlands Ballet Orchestra.

4. Rijksmuseum Gardens

The elegant gardens of the Rijksmuseum are among the least-known sightseeing attractions in Amsterdam, yet they are well worth a visit – and free, too.

Pick up a printed guide (also free) to learn all about the background of the impressive statues, fountains, ponds and "ruins" – a curious collection of salvaged old-Holland architectural pieces, spanning five centuries, that was brought together at the end of the last century from all over the country. 

It features everything from Gothic pillars from Edam to 17th century city gates from cities such as Groningen and Deventer.

5. Bloemenmarkt floating flower market

Shrubs, pot plants, bonsai trees, herbs and thousands of blooms of every colour and variety – you'll find it all at Amsterdam's famous floating flower market, the only one of its kind in the world.

Located on the Singel canal, between Koningsplein and Muntplein, the daily market dates back to 1862 and the stalls are set up on houseboats. 

Even if you are not buying, it's a great way to spend a morning in the city – just sit on one of the terraces and soak up the wonderful sights and smells.

6. Take a free boat trip

It might not be the longest of boat trips (about five minutes), but on a fine day it is well worth hopping on one of the free ferries that regularly cross the Ij (pronounced "eye") river, between Centraal Station and Amsterdam-Noord.

Bring your camera and make the most of the expansive view of the Amsterdam waterfront.

Related: Find out more about Saga's Dutch & Belgian Waterway cruise.

7. Vondelpark

If the sun is shining, Amsterdammers make a beeline for this park – the largest in the city.

Pack a picnic and join them. Find a patch of grass for a spot of people-watching, stroll past the statues (including a statue of the poet Vondel and The Fish by Pablo Picasso)

If you're visiting in summer (June to the end of August), enjoy the free concerts, open air theatre and other performances that take place in the small amphitheatre on the island near the centre of the park.

8. Zuiderkerk church exhibitions

This splendid 17th century church – with its impressive columns, pinnacles and dome – is one of the city's most prominent landmarks.

Interestingly, it ceased to function as a church in 1929, and today is the location of an information centre with regularly changing exhibitions, as well as a permanent exhibition which features a scale model of Amsterdam as it is envisioned in 2020.

If you visit in summer, make your way up to the tower for sweeping views of the city (this will set you back €6).

9. Spui Square book and art market

Head to picturesque Spui (pronounced "spouw" like "now") Square – the "cultural books square of the Netherlands" – for its weekly book market, held every Friday, which attracts booksellers from all over Netherlands (there are also a variety of bookstores on or near the square worth a visit).

The square also hosts an art market every Sunday, where local artists show their work, much of it affordably priced. It's a pleasant, peaceful place to while away a Sunday morning in the city.

10. Stroll along the canals of the Jordaan

With a rich past (Rembrandt spent the last years of his life in the Jordaan and the famous Anne Frank House is also located here), this lively neighbourhood is today the place to find many of Amsterdam's most interesting shops and modern art galleries.

By day, the district – relatively undiscovered by tourists – is peaceful strolling territory, especially along the Bloemgracht canal, arguably the city's prettiest.

Markets are held here regularly, too (try the Noordermarkt farmers' market on Saturdays, or the flea markets around Looiersgracht, any day but Friday).


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.